THE SENATE IN CONTROL
IT was by organizing and using all the resources of Italy that Rome had made herself a world-power. The government which had accomplished this had in the process drifted far from the popular constitution of 287 BC toward a compact oligarchy, and the city of Rome was now sloughing off the appearance of a rural market-town and gradually assuming the aspects of a large metropolis. We have first to speak of the government that ruled the empire, and then of the city which was the seat of that government. During the first half of the second century bc, the Roman government was more nearly an oligarchy than at any time after 287, when the theory of popular sovereignty was incorporated into Rome’s laws. The famous description of the constitution which Polybius set down in his sixth book was apparently written about 150 bc. His observations are remarkably keen, for, though a foreigner, he noticed the effects of several powers and functions that were somewhat in abeyance in his day. Nevertheless the description, strongly influenced by a desire to show how closely the Roman form of government resembled the ideal mixed form that Dicaearchus had advocated in his Tripoliticus, must be read with some caution. A careful consideration of the document will show that while theoretically the executive magistrates, the administrative Senate and the electoral and legislative popular assemblies were evenly balanced and checked each other equably, the Senate was after all the dominant organ in the state.
Polybius notes that the consuls summon and preside over the Senate and the assembly, and as presiding officers exercise unusual powers in directing the discussion and deciding the issue, that the execution of laws lies in their control, that as commanders-in-chief of the army they often decide the policies of war, control the levies of allies and in part those of citizens, have large powers of rewarding and punishing, and make whatever use they see fit of the war-chest. All of this is of course true, but it is also true that during this period the consuls, who were life-members of the Senate, seldom considered it wise to oppose the wishes and policies of that body. In other words the Senate had come to be far more than an advisory body.
When he proceeds to discuss the functions of the popular assemblies Polybius is aware that the people are in theory sovereign. They may accept or reject any bill, they determine the form of the constitution, they alone have the right to declare war and ratify treaties of peace, they are the electoral bodies, choosing all executive magistrates and thus indirectly also determining the composition of the Senate. And finally, the assemblies have from of old retained the right to decide every case of capital punishment of citizens as well as the right to summon magistrates to account for their acts while in office. This is entirely correct, but it is also true that at elections the assemblies continued to elect to high office hardly any but representatives of the noble families, that there was no important legislation during the period which had not first been shaped by senatorial discussion to suit the senatorial majority, that the Senate through extra-legal judicial commissions usually controlled the judicial proceedings in capital cases by ordering the preliminary investigations and presenting the charges, and that when impeachments were laid against magistrates it was quite regularly at the instance of some group inside the Senate. And what is most significant, the people of Rome, though considering themselves sovereign, did not during this period assert their right to control taxation or to initiate financial legislation.
In discussing the Senate’s functions, Polybius notices first the strange fact that the Senate had control of the treasury, regulating all revenues and expenditure. Next he is struck by the fact that the Senate is constantly exerting judicial powers throughout the great federation by the appointment of commissions with final judicial and executive powers. He likewise observes the Senate’s remarkable control over foreign policies by its custom of hearing and answering foreign embassies, and sending commissions of investigation and arbitration to foreign countries whenever any dispute arises. Finally, he notices the indirect power it has over individuals by its control of public contracts, and the influence individual senators obtain by reason of the rule that all court juries and all individual iudices appointed to hear cases must be drawn from the list of senators.
These were surprisingly numerous and important functions for a body which was not representative, and which in theory met only to give advice to the magistrates. The Senate’s control of revenues and expenditure was of course an old function, dating from the time when the censorship split off from the consulship, and was not seriously questioned till the Gracchi drew the logical consequences of the Hortensian law and insisted that the people were responsible for the budget. The custom of appointing judicial commissions was more recent, and seems to have grown up gradually as a logical consequence of war-time administration. When, during the Hannibalic war, threats of secession were heard in allied cities and quick action was necessary, the Senate would give to investigating committees judicial and police powers which, strictly speaking, it did not possess. These committees at first reported to the Senate and the Senate pronounced judgment. Thus the Senate tacitly assumed judicial powers within the federation in matters that concerned Rome’s safety. And in time the procedure was extended to questions of treason or of crimes endangering the state of peace even among citizens. This practice also the Gracchi attempted to stop, and later, after their failure, their argument against it was accepted by Julius Caesar as one of the most important articles of his programme.
The Senate’s administrative powers and control over foreign affairs were by no means overstated by Polybius. The people were too widely scattered, too ill-informed and too busy to discuss every detail that had to be determined quickly during the many wars. They acquiesced gladly in the Senate’s assumption of responsibility; and the Senate gained such prestige by its quick and wise decisions that the people gradually grew accustomed to allowing a senatus consultum to come into force without ratification until senatus consulta were often accepted as though ratified. Even the people’s ultimate right to declare war and confirm peace came to be practically ignored. It was only in 200 bc that it was for a while insisted upon, when the assembly at first refused to declare war against Philip; but even then the assembly was soon argued into assent. The Senate usually conducted the diplomatic preliminaries up to such a point that the people could not reasonably demur when the question was finally put to them. In 196 the tribal assembly, to be sure, insisted that the war in Macedonia should be brought to an end, but it is clear that a strong senatorial party gave its support to this demand. In most of the wars of the period the campaigns were begun and carried out without reference to the people. Manlius’ invasion of Galatia was considered a necessary step in the settlement of the dispute with Antiochus, and the extension of the northern war in Italy against the Gauls, Istri and Ligurians required no popular vote, since the Senate assumed that a state of war existed. The Senate decided how far the conquest might go, and the generals in the field employed the opportunities offered in the field to advance. Similarly, the terms of peace were usually drawn up and imposed by the Senate. Formal ratification was necessary when the people had made a formal declaration of war, but peace with Antiochus, for instance, which was ratified by the people, was a small matter as compared with the settlements made with Pergamum, Rhodes and the scores of cities and tribes of Asia Minor and Greece in consequence of the peace. As has been seen, the Senate employed legate a commission of ten, to draw up the terms for discussion in the Senate, and ever new commissions to suggest revisions and compromises as difficulties arose from the original agreements. And the assembly acquiesced. In all such matters it was probably felt that the people were in a way represented in the Senate by the tribunes, who could always enter the Senate and follow the discussions. Presumably, if the tribunes acquiesced in the arrangements, they might be considered satisfactory, and tribunician acquiescence came to be regarded in the Senate as equivalent to popular ratification.
There is also noticeable during the period a continuation of the senatorial custom that had grown up during the struggle with Hannibal of dispensing with the practice of sortition and of assigning the consuls and praetors directly to their work in time of important wars. Often this was done indirectly by proroguing the command of a general in the field. The word itself, prorogation is an indication that the extension of a command beyond the year of office was originally in the hands of the people. But now the Senate had assumed the privilege. When Flamininus succeeded in crossing the mountain pass into Thessaly, the Senate prorogued his command in Greece, thus removing the most important province of the year from the consular allotment. And he was thus kept in Greece for four years. During these years the consuls were allowed to draw lots for the work to be done in Italy. But the lot could also be interfered with in that a special task (to return to Rome and conduct the elections, for instance, or to carry on a special investigation) might be assigned to one of the two consuls, thereby indirectly assigning to the other the command of the army. And finally, in many instances armies and provinces were explicitly assigned by the Senate. That this infringement of power did not become customary seems to indicate that the practice was questioned, though we hear of few objections at the time. It is significant, however, that the Gracchi passed a law compelling the Senate to name the two consular provinces before the elections so that favouritism would be prevented. Evidently the Senate had been accused of yielding to personal motives in these assignments.
THE SENATE IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS: SOCII ET AMICI
The functions of the Senate increased immensely because of the new turn of foreign affairs during the second century. In the olden days Rome’s diplomacy had been simple. Alliances had regularly been made within Italy ‘for all time’. Under the rules of the fetiales it was regularly assumed that Rome went to war only in defence of herself and her allies. These treaties of mutual defence were ratified by the people and were explicit enough regarding the contingents that the socii were bound to furnish to the common army in case of war so that disputes seldom arose. Except in Etruria, where temporary alliances were for a while forced upon Rome, the State had been able to impose this uniform type of alliance in building the ever-increasing federation throughout Italy.
In dealing with outside powers, Greek or other, that came to Rome with requests for friendly relations, Rome was of course compelled to adopt other forms. Massilia and Carthage had long ago asked for and received commercial privileges. After the First Punic War such requests were sure to increase in number. During the Hannibalic War, Rome had even had to enter into a temporary alliance with the Aetolians and other states associated against Philip V. When that war was over Rome had learned of several forms of alliance in usage in the East which were very far from resembling those of her confederation, but for all that the old statesmen were still accustomed to think in terms of permanent defensive alliances in which Rome was the predominant partner.
It was when Rome entered the Second Macedonian War against Philip that the ancient diplomatic rules of the fetial law received their hardest blow. Here Rome joined a coalition for the defence of states which were amici, some of which had been temporary allies in a previous war. But no one could in this instance hold that Rome was bound under fetial practice to enter the war. There were no clauses calling for continued mutual defence in these treaties of friendship. It is apparent that the new phrase socii et amici came into use in parliamentary speeches and in apologetic history to slur over a transition in diplomatic practice which circumstances required but which priestly scruples found difficulty in accepting. These new amici were not required to aid Rome in war, but since Roman arms were in the East ostensibly in support of the smaller states of Greece, the pressure of public opinion was such as to make neutrality unpopular. And Rome did not hesitate to send delegations with rather pressing invitations to participate. In Rome’s war with Antiochus III, the Achaeans and King Philip, who were amici, found that neutrality was regarded with suspicion. The Senate knew well enough the difference in status between the Italian socius and the Greek amicus, but the diplomatic usage of centuries was not easy to slough off. The Senate had so long accustomed itself to receive aid from its allies and was so convinced of the utility of the old forms that when the amicus proved to be of no service or assumed an attitude of critical neutrality, the Senate eventually compelled him to exchange his ‘amicitia’ for a ‘societas’ which acknowledged Rome’s leadership in external affairs. Rhodes, for instance, after trying to preserve neutrality in Rome’s war with Perseus found herself so compromised that she decided to ask for a defensive alliance whereby she lost her independence. Several minor states silently kept their treaties of friendship, and in order to preserve an appearance of independence and avoid compulsion were quick to send promises of military aid when Rome seemed to be in need of it. After the middle of the century there is de facto very little difference between a socius and an amicus.
What brought the Senate into international politics very directly was the agreement in the year 200 bc to enter the war against Philip together with several other powers. In 198 Philip offered to make peace and the other powers appointed delegates to discuss and arrive at satisfactory terms, whereupon the Senate, which never delegated plenary powers to its Commissioners, virtually compelled the peace conference of the several associated powers to meet at Rome and discuss their proposals in the Senate. This was a critical moment in Rome’s diplomatic history. It was a warning to all associates that Rome’s constitution was not adapted to her participation in a league of equal states. Indeed, the conference broke down partly because Rome’s demands were too severe, but partly, doubtless, because Philip had a good opportunity to observe that the allies were displeased by the Senate’s assumption of hegemony and were likely to be less active in the future if the struggle continued. In point of fact, Rome had to complete the war with but little aid from her associates. Rome did not afterwards enter into wars with the aid of friends and allies on equal terms. In the conflicts with Antiochus and Perseus she directed affairs and accepted contingents from the others. When a war was over, the Roman general conducted the preliminary negotiations. At the division of the territory taken the representatives of the allies were invited, not to a plenary conference, but to a meeting with Rome’s ten Commissioners to present their suggestions and pleas. They did not participate as equals. The Senate based its decisions on the information and recommendation of the ten commissioners and these decisions were presented to the people for ratification. The allies, if dissatisfied with what they received, had the privilege of going to Rome to present their pleas to the Senate. Rome had in a brief space of thirty years reduced the Greek and Eastern allies, with whom in the past she had been proud to co-operate, virtually to the position of the humbler socii of Italy.
This complete change of attitude was not wholly intentional on the part of the Senate. During the Scipionic regime from 200 to 187 it is safest to interpret changes in diplomatic usage as due largely to a generous willingness to experiment with new and more liberal forms of alliance and association with the cultured peoples of Greece. Here and there, the Senate betrayed impatience at the length of Greek speeches delivered at peace conferences, and then undue pressure was exerted to expedite affairs. But on the whole it cannot be said that the Senate during the early period showed a deliberate intention of extending the old subject-federation eastward. It was only when the Scipios had been discredited and Cato, then risen to the influential position of censor, succeeded in directing policies of state for a while that the Senate reverted to the harsher doctrine. Though the Achaean League, disregarding the Roman treaty with Sparta, had annexed Sparta by force in 167, torn down its walls and banished, enslaved or slain all opponents, the Senate, eager to keep out of Greek affairs, had refused for several years to give ear to the delegations that came from both sides. This policy, however, was reversed in 185 bc. when the Scipios had lost their prestige. In that year, Caecilius Metellus, on his way from a conference with Philip, asked the League to make restitution to Sparta. When it refused, the Senate sent Appius Claudius (in 184) to warn the Achaeans that they would do well to listen to suggestions from the Senate or they might receive commands. Thus threatened, the League submitted its case for review and the Senate appointed a commission of three to hear both sides and give its decision. The decision as to the allies was adverse to the Achaeans. The League, asserting its independence, entered into a compromise agreement of its own with Sparta. This offended the Senate, which immediately sent envoys to the cities of the League with the grim advice to elect only such delegates to the federal congress as were friendly to Rome. Thus by indirection the Senate had its orders to the League obeyed.
It cannot be said that Cato was for any long period the dominant man in the Senate, but he was influential long enough to point the way back to the old theory that Rome should always keep control over her federation, direct its policies, insist upon having her decisions obeyed, and enter into alliances that could and would give her practical support. From that time on the Senate betrayed distrust of liberal politics in foreign affairs.
Needless to say, the direction of foreign affairs in the enlarged federation brought the Senate great prestige at home and abroad. Each year, in the month of February, kings or envoys from kings, republics, and tribes throughout the empire—from Spain to Syria—stood waiting upon its pleasure. The Senate preferred to have requests presented in the senate-house, and if business became too pressing, it delegated the fate of nations to small commissions. When business could not be settled at Rome, envoys, clad in the power of the august body, carried its messages to kings and assemblies, and delivered them with all due display of dignity. The Romans never wearied of telling how Popillius, sent in 168 bc to order Antiochus Epiphanes to observe a proper regard for Rome’s friend in Egypt, drew a circle around the divinity and demanded that he answer the Senate’s ultimatum before he left the spot. Popillius was no great personage at home, indeed it was generally said that his consular election was due to an accident. It was only by virtue of the Senate’s authority that such as he could thus address an Epiphanes. One must admit that when the Senate had grown so powerful in foreign affairs as this, its moderation in home affairs and in the administration of Italy deserves some acknowledgment.
THE DOMINANT FAMILIES
There is no evidence of any democratic revolt from senatorial dominance within fifty years after the Hannibalic War. However, it is probable that the nobility exerted itself to retain its position. There was a tendency at work in the Senate, on the one hand, not to let any member become so strong that he might either assume dangerous leadership or vault into autocracy by way of demagogy, and on the other, not to admit into the Senate many outsiders who might elbow out the nobles already recognized. For a while the Scipionic group, for instance, was very strong, resting its authority on the prestige of Africanus. Those who had supported his policies were grateful for the success which had justified their support of him, and the soldiers and commons were deeply devoted to the hero. For a few years his advice must have swayed the counsels of the Senate, and it was probably owing to the influence of the Scipionic group that Flamininus was allowed to complete the Second Macedonian War in 196. In 194 Scipio was re-elected to the consulship; then in 193, two protégés, Q. Minucius Thermus and L. Cornelius Merula; in 192 a brother of Flamininus; in 191 Scipio’s cousin, Nasica, with a friend, the novus homo, M. Acilius Glabrio; in 190 L. Cornelius, a brother, and a trusted friend, Laelius, and finally in 189 M. Fulvius and Cn. Manlius, of whom the first showed himself moderate towards the Aetolians and Ambraciotes, and the second earned the thanks of the Greeks of Asia Minor by his treatment of the Galatians.
However, not even this group held unquestioned dominance. In 196 bc, when it seemed that the war in the East might be protracted needlessly, L. Furius Purpureo and M. Claudius Marcellus were elected to the highest office, apparently because they were not of the group; and these were followed the next year by Cato and Valerius Flaccus, who were outspoken critics of Scipio. Indeed there was strong enough opposition in the Senate to prevent Scipio from taking Cato’s command in Spain in 194, and from remaining to carry through the final settlement of the affairs of Asia, a privilege which the victory of Magnesia might well have won for him and for his brother. However grateful Rome was to the victor of Zama, the Valerii, Claudii, Servilii, Furii, Aemilii, Sulpicii, Fabii, Marcii, and Caecilii, whose families were as old as his, were always free to express their opinions independently and had no desire to permit any man to win complete control. And Scipio himself was too sound an aristocrat to desert his class and attempt to retain power by appealing to the devoted populace for support. Scipio’s experience is significant. If a quietly exerted pressure could keep so great a hero in his place, respectful of senatorial custom, the prestige of the Senate could hardly be endangered by any one of its members.
For reasons not wholly clear the ranks of the nobility seem not to have been threatened to any extent by parvenus. Between 200 and 146 there were one hundred and eight consuls elected. Only about eight of these belonged to families that had not been represented in consular office before, and it was consular office that lifted a family to the much coveted nobilitas. We have no right to assume that this condition was chiefly due to exertions on the part of the nobles. Indeed, members of the nobility not infrequently aided friends to gain office, as, for instance, when Valerius Flaccus aided Cato, and the Scipios raised the unknown Acilius Glabrio to the consulship. The chief reason for the failure of outsiders to break into the Senate was apparently their inability to place their claims before the voters. Political parties, which promote individual leadership, are slow to form in a state where the people are given the right to vote directly on every measure of importance. Wealth, which was requisite for the holding of unremunerated offices and for the expenses of the annual games, came to but few in an agricultural society where citizens seldom engaged in commerce or industry, and very few fortunes were made except by generals who were, of course, already members of the ruling group. Furthermore, private citizens could not, as at Athens, attract attention to themselves by addressing the assembly, for political meetings were very carefully controlled by the magistrates. The private citizen of unknown family remained unknown, and so long as the Senate ruled satisfactorily, making no serious mistakes that invited a popular uprising, the people were satisfied to continue the old families in positions of dignity.
It has been suggested that the legislation of the period reveals an effort on the part of the nobility to keep their ranks closed, but the proof is not wholly satisfactory. The Baebian law—soon repealed despite the efforts of Cato (in 179 bc)—cut down the praetorships in alternate years from six to four, but this measure was designed not so much to limit the number of magistrates as to grant terms of two years to praetors in the far-off province of Spain because the long journey there and back wasted a valuable part of a year. It has been surmised that the Senate opposed the addition of new provinces between 200 and 146 in order to limit the number of praetorships. However, even if the imperialistic party had been very strong in the Senate, there could hardly have been a question of adding more than two new provinces at most, and these could have been cared for by proroguing the terms of praetors, as was repeatedly done, or by extending the Baebian law to other provinces besides Spain. The absence of an imperialistic sentiment in the Senate at this time can be explained more simply. After going into a war with the explicit programme of ‘freeing the Greeks,’ the claims of disinterestedness could hardly be disregarded for a generation or two. The Lex Villia Annalis of 180 bc, which set an age qualification for the several offices of the cursus honorum and required a term of two years between each, whatever its primary purpose, worked chiefly as a check upon the too rapid advancement of well-known nobles, and the complete prohibition of iteration in the consulship by the law of 151 bc also served as a check upon powerful members of the nobility. We do not find that either law resulted in the increase of novi homines, but both of them might at least have proved an aid to parvenus if the demand for new blood had been strong.
Neither can we say that the Senate made any attempt for a long time to suppress tribunician activity in order to protect its ranks from new men who might win prestige by political activity in the plebeian assembly. The Senate employed tribunes as presiding officers for legislative purposes more freely than consuls. The Leges Atinia (197), Marcia Atinia, Licinia (196), Aelia (194), Sempronia (193), Terentia (18 9), Valeria (18 8), Villia (180), Voconia (169), Calpurnia (149), and Livia (146) were tribunician measures and were probably all previously discussed and approved by the Senate. About a half of these were passed while the Scipionic group was still very influential. The list is longer than that of the consular laws. It was not till about the middle of the century that a measure was passed that can be said to reveal a distrust of the plebeian assembly. The exact date of this Lex Aelia Fufia is not known, but Cicero, speaking in 55 bc, apparently assumed that at that time it was about a century old. This strange law, not clearly defined in our sources, seems to have given magistrates the right to dismiss plebeian assemblies by obnuntiatio, that is, by announcing unfavourable omens. The obnuntiatio was later used with great unfairness, but we are not sure that it was so employed with any frequency in the second century. Perhaps, though we must acknowledge that there is no positive evidence of it, we may infer from this bill that some tribune had attempted to override the wishes of the Senate about the year 150 bc. On the whole, however, we must conclude that the Senate remained in power because it did its work well and fairly and because it retained the confidence of the voters. Not only does Cicero in his conservative days refer to this period as an era of harmony, but Sallust, the democratic historian, calls it a time of concord and good government.
FACTIONS WITHIN THE SENATE: SCIPIO AND CATO
Though there is no real evidence of party divisions segregating the voters at this time, it is clear that now and then the nobles themselves separated temporarily into factions. In the later years of the Second Punic War Fabius Maximus had been very powerful but had lost his influence because in 205 bc the younger men supported Scipio in a demand for a more aggressive plan of warfare. Then while the final victory lagged, the Servilii gathered enough strength in 203 and 202 to capture the chief offices though not enough to displace Scipio in Africa. In fact C. Servilius so abused his power by holding the dictatorship beyond the lawful term that the Senate would hear no more of dictators, and the Servilii retired into obscurity for many years. The victory at Zama made Cornelius Scipio the most powerful man at Rome. It would seem that any member of his family could then have any office which he desired. Seven Cornelii are recorded as consuls during the ten years after Zama, and also men, like the two Aelii, Minucius Thermus and Acilius Glabrio, who were closely identified with Scipio’s policies. Historians who have recently attempted to reconstruct the senatorial parties of this period on the basis of family relationships, neglecting the firm evidence of party programmes, have somewhat underestimated the range of Scipio’s influence. A letter written by the Scipios to the Greek city of Heraclea in 190 displays the same philhellenic sentiments as the pronouncements of Flamininus in 196 bc. There can be no doubt that it is the powerful Scipio, rather than the very young Flamininus, who was responsible for the adoption by the Senate of the policy these pronouncements represent. To insist in the face of such agreement that Flamininus must have been an opponent of Scipio because his wife’s sister was the wife of a distant relative of Fabius Maximus is to misunderstand the political-mindedness of Roman nobles. Time and again members of noble families fall apart on political questions, just as it happened that senators, when personal enemies, would often for reasons of state become reconciled. One has but to recall Livius and Claudius Nero, Fulvius and Lepidus, Scipio and Gracchus, to become convinced that the State frequently meant more to them than family ties. If then we may infer Scipio’s position in the state from the success of his foreign policy and the frequent appearance of his friends in the highest offices of state we may conclude that his opinion usually prevailed in the Senate until the return of the Eastern armies in 18 7. He lost that influence gradually, in part because of a natural reaction among the practical Romans against a policy which seemed to subordinate Roman to Greek interests, in part because several of the men elected to office through his support or ostensibly to carry out his programme—men like Minucius Thermus, Acilius Glabrio, Fulvius Nobilior and Manlius Vulso—offended the conservatives by their incapacity or their reckless behaviour. The attacks upon him and his partisans began about 190 bc and continued till Africanus withdrew from the city in disgust some six years later.
The man who usually led in the opposition to Scipio was M. Porcius Cato, a Tusculan farmer of some wealth and no family, who had won the respect of his generals by his courage, of the people by his honesty and his picturesque, incisive speech, and of the Fabian party by his conservatism. He was by no means a democrat. Though a novas homo himself he seems not to have aided other ‘new men’ to office. His speeches and legislative proposals reveal no desire to bring up the subject of popular sovereignty, to weaken the Senate or to strengthen the tribunician power. Like other senators of the period he was willing to make use of the tribunician machinery when it was most convenient, but he probably employed it less than did the Scipionic group. He supported all the laws that proved to be factors in keeping an even balance of power between the old senatorial families and therefore helped to perpetuate senatorial rule. He was deeply interested in agriculture, but can hardly be said to have led an agrarian faction except that in his most influential days citizen colonies seem to have been favoured rather than ‘Latin’ settlements. If he had a programme it was not so much political and economic as moral and social. He opposed several magistrates on moral and legal issues: for corruption, for inefficiency, for disregarding niceties of law or established custom, and at times because he feared their dominance in the Senate. On the question of foreign policy his moving prejudice seems to have been a very strong nationalism which was particularly excited by the Macedonian War. He volunteered, to be sure, in order to take part as a subordinate officer in the war against Antiochus, which he apparently regarded as a necessary defensive war, but he had no sympathy for the generous sentiments of the Scipios towards the Greeks. The harsh tone of the senatorial commands to Greek states issued in the years when Cato was a dominant figure, and the sarcastic remarks he made to the Senate for wasting valuable time in discussing the fate of mere Graeculi, reveal what his attitude must have been toward the programme of Scipio and Flamininus. We may not infer that he would have annexed and exploited new provinces. His speeches on the Macedonian settlement and on the proposal to declare war against Rhodes prove that he did not favour annexation. He would have preferred simply to have nothing to do with Greece, and he was a consistent advocate of non-intervention.
In this his conviction was based not only upon a fear of what he considered impractical sentiment but upon a deep-seated puritanism that disliked un-Roman ideas and strange customs which seemed to him vicious. His attacks upon Manlius Vulso and his officers, corrupted, as he said, by learning new vices in the East, long provided phrases to the moralists who dated the change of Roman manners from the return of the Eastern army; his persecution of the Bacchanal worshippers who had come up from Magna Graecia was carried to great cruelty, and his insults to Greek ambassadors who gave proof of their skill in Greek dialectic furnished entertainment to the rabble. He favoured every sumptuary law proposed to check the elegant habits of dressing and dining that the Romans brought back from Greece. Thus it is that Cato, though seldom concerned with large policies of state, whether foreign or domestic, became repeatedly involved in political battles through his deep puritanic conservatism and his fervent nationalism. He delivered more than 150 speeches, the majority of them attacks upon important men, and he was himself haled into court some fifty times by his political and personal opponents.
The political downfall of Scipio and his group was mainly caused by Cato. In the year 190 bc Cato prevented Minucius Thermus from securing a triumph for victories in Liguria, by exposing an act of cruelty committed against ten Ligurian commissioners. After serving with Acilius Glabrio he brought charges that Acilius had sequestrated for his own use some of the booty taken at Thermopylae. In this case he failed, perhaps because the old customs of Rome permitted generals to use part of any booty obtained in rewarding their officers and men.
Acilius, however, was so far damaged in reputation that he withdrew his candidacy for the censorship. In 187 Cato attempted to deprive M. Fulvius Nobilior, another friend of the Greeks, of his triumph over the Aetolians, and in this he was strongly supported by Aemilius Lepidus who was a personal enemy of Fulvius. The charge was that Fulvius had distributed war-bounties too liberally to his officers and men, and it was noted with sarcasm that Fulvius had taken the poet Ennius in his train to celebrate his deeds. In the same year Cato supported two of the diplomatic legati in attacking Manlius for his campaign in Asia Minor.
Despite these attacks both Fulvius and Manlius were accorded triumphs by the Senate. Nevertheless, Cato must have found much support among the patres, for he extended his attacks to the Scipios themselves. In 187, two tribunes—at Cato’s request, we are told—made a demand in the Senate that Lucius Scipio should give an account of the 500 talents which he had received from Antiochus as a preliminary instalmenbof the indemnities due after the battle of Magnesia. Cato delivered a speech in support of the demand. Africanus, who knew that the attack was directed against himself, brought the records into the Senate and tore them to shreds. Whether he had a right to do this was perhaps a matter of definition. Generals, according to Polybius, were as yet not compelled to furnish an exact account of their booty, though what was not distributed in bounties was customarily sent to the treasury; but it is questionable whether the 500 talents exacted as part of the war indemnity could be classified as booty. This haughty procedure stopped open debate for a while, but in time it gave support to rumours that the accounts had not been above suspicion. Hence a tribune, apparently M. Naevius, who held that office in 184, the year of Cato’s censorship, summoned Lucius Scipio before the plebeian assembly to render his account. Again Africanus repelled the attack, this time by reminding the people that it was by grace of his victories that the Romans were a free people. When the assembly was summoned once more and this time imposed a heavy fine on Lucius, and he was about to be led off to prison for refusal to pay, he was saved from disgrace only by the timely intervention of another tribune, his political opponent Sempronius Gracchus. That Lucius Scipio, the victor of Magnesia, despite the strenuous support of his great brother could thus be led off to prison on a doubtful charge can be explained only on the assumption that the Scipios had lost the support of most of the nobility. Their prestige was now wholly gone, and Africanus died, apparently the next year, in seclusion on a country estate at Liternum far from Rome.
Meanwhile Cato, the new man who had successfully concentrated aristocratic and popular antagonism against the Scipionic coterie, had been elected to the censorship in 184 bc. And in that office he was in a position to humiliate other members of the group by removing them from the Senate, to lay down sumptuary restrictions, to impose stricter methods of accounting in public records, and to bring Rome back to old-time customs. In all this he would, of course, not have succeeded unless there had been among the nobles a very strong undercurrent of conservatism and nationalism, not to say of jealousy, directed against the group so long in power. But Cato himself carried out his reforms and his vengeance with scant regard for human sympathies. He was too independent and too rigid to play politics with tact. He made few friends. He never compromised. And, what was more important, the Scipios had opened the channels to Greek culture and to new ideas so widely that Cato could not check the current. He was indeed too old-fashioned to become for long a dominant force in the newer Rome, and was eventually defeated by silent influences fostered by the very men he had himself overthrown.
The Fulvian family, which to some extent represented the policies of the Scipios, came into influential positions after 180, perhaps because of a general feeling that the Scipios had been disgracefully treated. However when, in 173, Q. Fulvius Flaccus was brought to trial for sacrilege, having robbed a temple of Magna Graecia for the embellishment of one which he was building in Rome, the family suffered in prestige, and new groups, among them the Postumii, assumed the leadership. At times it would seem that some of these groups succeeded in gaining office for their members by the mere chance of presiding at the elections. Apparently a presiding officer at elections could exert enough influence in the manner of presenting and commending candidates to win the election for a friend or relative. Such a possibility would hardly be conceivable at times of bitter factional fights. Be that as it may, no strong party trend is noticeable for a long time after the year of Cato’s censorship. In 170 bc, when the new war with Macedonia united all factions there was again a demand for strong and tried men of the oldest families, and Marcius Philippus and after him Aemilius Paullus were elected to the consulship. This sketch has mentioned only a part of the evidence, but it is enough to show that party divisions did not penetrate into the large body of voters, that there were no important party programmes, and that the occasional factional contests of this period, at least before the middle of the century, occurred between cliques within the Senate which were shaped on personal motives rather than on programmes that might create political parties.
There is little important legislation to record for this period. The public interest was centred chiefly on affairs in Greece, Asia, Cisalpine Gaul, Spain, and Africa which the Senate was very busy in directing. The laws that were passed were probably discussed and drafted in the Senate, and the tribal assembly was usually employed to pass the bills because it could be summoned more quickly and could be brought to action more readily than the cumbersome centuriate assembly. Whether consuls or tribunes should propose laws was also a question of convenience. During the Second Punic War the tribunes had been trained into complete docility and now continued for two generations to treat the Senate with entire respect. Since the consuls were frequently away on long campaigns it was convenient to have friendly tribunes to summon the tribal assembly and to put through necessary bills.
In reviewing the legislation of the years 200-187, when the Scipionic group was predominant, we find many more tribunician than consular measures. This, however, was a period when the consuls were seldom at home. The bills reveal on the whole a spirit of fairness and liberality. The number of praetors was increased to six in 198 in order to provide governors for Spain; the Oppian law, a very strict sumptuary law meant for war conditions, was repealed by a plebiscite in 195 despite the opposition of Cato. In 189 a senatus consultum ordered the enrolment of the Campanians in the census, though the law of 210 had declared that they had for ever forfeited citizenship. The senatus consultum was not a law, but in this instance its validity was not questioned. In 188 the tribal assembly—doubtless with the tacit approval of the leading senators—granted full citizenship to the people of Arpinum, Fundi and Formiae who had been elves sine sufragio. Had this generous policy been continued later, the Social War would have been prevented. In 189 a tribune carried a bill granting full rights of citizenship to sons of ex-slaves, that is, the law permitted them to be enrolled in the rural tribes.
That this was an aristocratic measure appears from the fact that the censor Sempronius, who usually passed as a democrat, modified it in 167 because libertini were too ready to vote according to the wishes of their patrons.
The disposal of public land acquired in the south because of the devastation caused by the war, and by confiscations in the Po valley, might conceivably have issued in party alignments, but seems not to have done so. In the preceding chapter we have indicated that the Scipionic regime was in this matter more liberal toward the allies than the Catonian group, but the amount of unoccupied land was of course decreasing with time and this may have been the chief determining factor in the change of policy. In discussing Italy we have noticed that the plebiscite of 193, extending over Italy the force of Rome’s laws on usury, was a necessity, and that the exclusion of illegally registered Latins in 187 simply acceded to a request of the Latin towns. Neither of these bills can be called party measures. The suppression of the Bacchic cult in 186, on the other hand, must be attributed largely to the narrow nationalism of Cato and his friends, who were willing to infringe the treaty-rights of the allies in their determination to oppose non-Roman cults and customs. Cato’s penchant for regulation by law may also be seen in the consular law of Baebius which attempted to restrict undue electioneering (181), in the bill of the same consul which in effect gave praetors in Spain two years of governorship, in the tribunician sumptuary law of Orchius which limited the number of guests one might entertain at dinner, and in the tribunician Lex Villia Annalis which defined the age-qualifications of candidates for the magistracies.
Colonization in the years of Cato’s dominance was, strangely enough, directed by the Senate, and it betrays a reversal of the liberal policy of the Scipios in that citizens were favoured to the disadvantage of Latins and allies in the granting of lots. Potentia and Pisaurum received settlements of citizens in 184. This was quite regular, since these were coast towns. But when in 183 agrarian colonies of citizens were planted at Mutina and Parma we have proof of a narrow policy which was destined to cause antagonism among the allies who had taken part in the conquest of the Gallic country. Latin colonies were later planted at Aquileia (181) and Luca (180), but the proximity of these places to hostile tribes probably made the lots none too desirable. With the return of the Fulvian group a more generous method cf distribution came into effect: in 173 a senatus consultant ordered the allotment of the remainder of vacant lands in the Po valley to Roman and allied applicants, but the evil precedent of the Catonian methods was followed in that citizens received larger lots than the allies. This was quite in conformity with a custom which had then recently grown up in the army of giving lesser bounties to allied soldiers when the booty and the rewards of valour were distributed.
After the Catonian period there are few laws to record and these few hardly reveal any consistent tendency. In 179 the Baebian law, which had cut down the praetorships to four in alternate years, was repealed. Magistracies were in great demand and Cato’s protest went unheeded. In 177 bc Latins were again expelled from Rome at the request of Latin towns. In 169 the Voconian law was passed disqualifying women from being named as principal heirs (i.e. of over fifty per cent.) of large estates. The purpose of the law was apparently to ensure in some measure the preservation of estates of nobles in the hands of those who bore the responsibilities of government. Legal fictions were of course soon invented which made the law practically void. There was another stringent sumptuary law in 161, proposed by the consul Fannius, and the death penalty was imposed for bribery in 159 by a consular law. In 151 Cato, now very old, supported a measure to forbid the holding of the consulship a second time. In this he was of course advocating the policies of the ruling nobility which did not care to have any one member grow unduly powerful. About the same time, as we have seen, the Lex Aelia Fufia was passed. Finally in 149 we reach the excellent tribunician law of Calpurnius Piso which established a special court for the hearing of the complaints of provincials lodged against governors. This was the first of the quaestiones perpetuae. Its purpose was to relieve the tribal assembly from having to hear charges which it obviously was unfit to judge, to substitute regular judicial procedure for political harangues and a jury of intelligent senators for an ignorant mob. It may not have been a party measure, since the Senate was at this time as eager as any tribune to keep generals and governors from abusing legitimate office. The legislation that falls after 149 has significance for the Gracchan period.
When we survey the legislation of this period we are struck by the lack of initiative on the part of the tribunes and the people. Whatever factional strife there was can best be referred to temporarily opposing groups within the nobility. The people were so freely called upon to legislate in the tribal assembly that they probably felt they had their due share in the government. The old respect for the noble houses had not been shaken by any serious errors. The question of taxation, which is so vital a part of modern legislation, awakened no comment, and was removed from the field of political discussion in 167 when the provincial revenues were declared sufficient to cover Rome’s modest budget. Land distributions had been generous enough to satisfy the slow increase of population for at least three or four decades, so that as yet it had not occurred to any one to demand that the rented plots should be resumed and distributed. And finally trade and industry were making such slow progress in Rome that paternal legislation in favour of groups usually requiring support or protection from modern parliaments had not yet been demanded.
About the middle of the century there are signs that the Senate’s control might come to be questioned and that the patres were aware of the fact. At no time during the century had the leading men forgotten that the oligarchic regime continued merely by popular consent. There were good jurists who knew precisely what were the constitutional powers accorded each department and organ of State. And the Senate so frequently needed to make use of the tribunician machinery that it kept the people fairly well informed as to the powers and capacity of the popular assembly. When in 188, for instance, several tribunes were ready to veto the plebiscite giving full citizenship to several towns, they were informed, presumably by the senatorial jurists, that the tribal assembly was competent to grant citizenship without being authorized by the Senate. Yet this was a question which lay at the roots of federal administration. In the treatment of powerful individuals we find the Senate equally meticulous. While it apparently feared the rise of outstanding men who might threaten to impose a monarchy, it was exceedingly careful, when giving advice to magistrates, to observe the customary forms. In a few emergencies the Senate resorted to astute devices to shift a consul of special fitness into a position that required particular competence, but it was careful not to claim the right to supersede the lot. The Senate’s power in fact grew by acquiescence, not by usurpation. The check upon the individual was obtained not so much by senatorial obstruction as by regular enactment of legislation; first, the requirement of a term of ten years between consular terms, then the Lex Villia Annalis which guaranteed a reasonably mature age before the first term was reached, and finally in 151, after the re-election of Claudius Marcellus proved that the people might disregard their own laws, by a new bill which forbade a second consulship.
It seems to have been the unpopularity of the protracted Spanish Wars from 154 to 133 that finally awakened a readiness to protest against senatorial domination a few years before the Gracchan period. The continued levies revealed the scarcity of free recruits throughout Italy, and the opposition to them inspired tribunes to create machinery of obstruction and to attack returning generals on charges of incapacity, fraud and treason. In 144 very serious riots occurred because of heavy recruiting; a tribune even attempted to prevent the consul from marching to Spain, and in 138 the two consuls were for a while imprisoned by the tribunes. It was doubtless because of such disturbances that the secret ballot was introduced at the elections and in the courts by the Gabinian (139) and Cassian (137) laws. The growing discontent is also shown by the fact that the people could compel the Senate to disregard the Lex Villia Annalis and the law of 152 so that the popular Scipio Aemilianus, natural son and political heir of the moderate Aemilius Paullus, could be elected to the consulship out of turn in 146 and later re-elected. When Tiberius Gracchus became tribune in 133, the Senate was sharply divided into factions, and the tribunate knew how to use its powers to the full. It then needed only a daring leader to apply the lessons of twenty years of discussion.
This period is one of very important changes in Roman society. How simple life had been even in the households of the old nobles we may judge from the anecdotes that tell of the dismay awakened by the first divorce case of Rome—shortly before the Hannibalic War, according to tradition—and of the scandal occasioned by the appearance of the first professional cooks—after the war with Antiochus. Cato was of course very old-fashioned, but it is significant that as consul and censor he could live in farm-houses that were not plastered. As late as 161 the consul Fannius could pass a bill through the Senate and assembly prescribing that ordinary meals should cost no more than ten asses. During the Second Punic War life in Italy had been very strenuous; there had been little time and no means for pleasure, little interest in culture, and a willingness to submit to the severest self-denial. The most exacting sumptuary laws were passed, not so much to enforce the making of sacrifices to the bankrupt state as to reflect the popular disapproval of display at a time of distress and mourning. Women had been forbidden to wear jewellery, the fabrics that could be used in clothing had been carefully defined, expensive gifts had been prohibited at the Saturnalia, lawyers were forbidden to exact fees for their services to clients, games of chance were outlawed, and the expenses of the table strictly limited.
After the war, when the severest financial strain was over, money was more easily made and more freely spent. Soldiers returned from the wars with savings and some part of the distributed booty, taxes were lowered, and fields that had been devastated or neglected in the absence of campaigning soldiers were giving better yields. Slaves were also brought in at low prices, which afforded leisure from work to those who could invest in slave labour. Many slaves had been brought up from Tarentum and Locri before the war ended, and Punic and Spanish captives came with the peace. Cynoscephalae added Macedonian captives and some precious metals, and after Magnesia there were Syrian captives and a good indemnity. The troops of Manlius who had marched through the towns of Pamphylia and Galatia returned with full purses—as well as shameless manners. Even the Spanish and Gallic campaigns brought captives and some booty. Most of the booty flowed to the treasury, but it relieved taxation and supplied funds for public works which gave occupation to artisans and a competence to contractors. In 187 the treasury had a large enough surplus to repay the war taxes of twenty-five assessments, though not enough to redeem the mortgaged public land.
However, the change in Roman society came slowly because of the ingrained conservatism of the old noble families. It must not be overstated. Cato’s exaggerated tirades made an impression on later writers because they provided the only contemporary comment on this theme, but the phrases that we have from them betray how primitive was the luxury against which he inveighed. Modern historians have too often drawn incorrect conclusions from the plays of Plautus which were written between 210 and 184. These, in point of fact, do not picture Roman street scenes: the spendthrifts wasting their estates on courtesans, the scheming parasites, the extravagant meretrices with their gorgeous wardrobes, the purse-proud slave-dealers, the saucy slaves of these plays —all these are un-Roman. They come from the Greek New Comedy and picture the characters that walked the streets of Athens in the days of Demetrius of Phalerum when slaves and luxurious women and gilded mercenaries had come in from Alexander’s raids in the East. Plautus is careful to say that the scene is Athenian. He repeatedly lets the actors drop the remark to the amazed Roman audience that ‘such things are possible in Athens,’ and the audience enjoyed the spectacle as wholly exotic, with a sense of emotional purgation not wholly exempt from a self-righteous satisfaction that they themselves were more respectable. The comedies produced the effect of a modern French farce when played in some provincial English or American town. Before the Menander papyri were found, it was the fashion to say that the coarser scenes depicting cruelty to slaves, the ranting of the leno, the low regard for women, belonged to Plautus rather than to his Greek originals. We now know that the New Comedy provided all these things from life. It is of course quite likely that vice is a trifle less attractive in the Plautine versions than it was in the original. Rome had as yet relatively few impudent and spoiled slaves, and Roman society had nothing to compare with the pampered hetaerae of Athens. The courtesans of Rome were still kept in the dark and treated as the scum of the earth if they appeared above ground. Hence where Roman colouring shows in the Plautine play, some of the glamour of the original is naturally rubbed off. But this only enforces the main thesis, that Rome was by no means ready to comprehend the sophistication of the Hellenistic New Comedy.
Roman society was still simple in its tastes, hard-working and puritanic in the virtues that go with a strenuous agrarian military regime. During the first decades of the century there was as yet no dearth of independent small farms from which to draw goodly armies of peasant yeomen—four or more legions of citizens annually, with nearly twice as many Italian allies. Until then slaves had not been numerous, so scarce that in the countryside they were usually treated as members of the household. Yet Cato’s treatise on farming—written about 150 bc—shows that capitalistic farming with slave labour, supervised by slaves, was fast appearing. The last campaign of the Hannibalic War brought in the first large hordes. Being war-captives scarcely adapted to farm work, they proved unruly, and a few years later we hear of attempts to escape at Signia, in Etruria, and elsewhere. However, the warcaptives were soon succeeded by more docile bought slaves and we read no more of such revolts in Italy for a long time. Slave-culture, however, had come to stay; plantations and ranches were growing, especially on the ager publicus and in the hilly Etruscan region where the land, as now, was doubtless suffering erosion to such an extent as to make farming precarious. Gracchus in passing through Etruria in 137 was impressed by the number of slaves employed there.
The second century is the period in which the social classes began to be stereotyped into the forms that are usually considered the most typical of the Roman Republic: the agrarian-political nobility, a capitalistic middle class, and a lowly artisan class crushed between the middle class and the slaves. In their economic interests and aims the nobility was perhaps closer to the English landed nobility of a generation ago than to the Junkers of Prussia or to the plantation-owners of the southern states of America of two generations ago. And yet the differences were considerable. The English estates had originated largely in grants and by the use of enclosure and eviction and had been preserved intact through the legal devices of entail and primogeniture. At Rome, on the other hand, the estates were in no small part due to acquisitions in early wars, distribution of ager publicus and investment of war booty as well as to success and diligence in farming. Entail was not encouraged by Roman law, nor did the eldest son have any superior rights; nevertheless estates were preserved with remarkable consistency through many generations. In the first place, since it was the custom in making wills to assign shares in an estate rather than particular objects or properties, landed estates could readily be saved from subdivision. Moreover, the Voconian law prevented the escape of an estate from the family through a female line. When we add that Roman families seldom were large, that religious considerations connected with the parentalia insisted on the adoption of a male heir when none existed, that no little care was taken to strengthen estates by insistence upon the dowry, we can comprehend how family properties were possessed intact for centuries. The possession of profitable estates was quite essential to a noble. The property-qualification for senatorial office was not very large, but was insisted on. More burdensome was the requirement that a senator must live at Rome and be constantly available for meetings of the Senate, and since trade and commerce were for him taboo, an income from land was essential. Thus family pride provided a strong spur to use every device possible in keeping estates intact for sons and heirs.
In the inner circle of the thirty or forty families that produced most of the consuls of this century a social life was coming into existence which found its stimulus and interest more and more in arts and letters, in polite conversation, and in lavish entertainment. Something of the sort had appeared in the exclusive regal courts of Antioch and Alexandria before, but now for the first time it made its appearance outside of a royal community, since now for the first time there existed in a democracy a sufficiently large group of families that possessed the necessary wealth and leisure, the prestige and desire, and above all the inherited customs that permitted the matron to have her share in social life on a basis of equality with men. To reconstruct a picture of that social life at its beginnings is not easy, since the sources are so fragmentary. In fact later Roman writers seldom mentioned its details, which were assumed to be generally known, so that we usually have to depend upon the observations of Greek authors. Polybius mentions the somewhat elaborate entourage of Aemilia, the wife of the great Scipio: “This lady, whose name was Aemilia, having participated in the fortunes of Scipio when he was at the height of his prosperity, used to display great magnificence whenever she took part in the religious ceremonies of the women. For apart from the richness of her own dress and of the decorations of her carriage, all the baskets, cups, and other utensils of the sacrifice were of gold or silver and were borne in her train on such solemn occasions, while the number of maids and servants in attendance was correspondingly large”. Such women were not confined to a gynaeceum. Regarding her daughter, Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, Plutarch chanced to drop a few phrases that reveal a salon of a very modern type: “She had many friends, and kept a good table that she might show hospitality, for she always had Greeks and other literary men about her, and all the reigning kings interchanged gifts with her”. Indeed the king of Egypt had sued for her hand and offered her the crown. It was this society which encouraged the production of Greek tragedies and comedies in translation at Rome. And to lend prestige to the performances, as well as to invite the presence of a suitable audience, Scipio had the front rows of the orchestra reserved for the senators. This society it was that encouraged the nationalistic as well as the exotic poetry of Ennius, the adornment of Rome with many public buildings, that enlarged the old Roman house with the garden peristyle and demanded artistic decoration for the houses. But it must also be remembered that the coterie was as yet relatively small, and that the conservative, puritanic, anti-foreign group criticized it severely and succeeded time and again in forcing it into obscurity. This aristocratic caste, based economically upon slave-worked land and socially upon political privilege, was destined to drift into snobbish exclusiveness and intransigent rigidity.
By its side there was now arising the middle equestrian class that drew its power from money, the first powerful capitalistic class known to history. Its rise to influence was very gradual since its resources were at first confined to moderate state contracts, the more lucrative business being still in the hands of Greeks and Campanians. In Central Italy commerce and industry failed to make progress, largely because of the opening up of more land both for plantations and for small farms. From this source there was no great accumulation of wealth. However, public contracts, beginning with those given out in the course of Rome’s conflict with Carthage, were increasing, and the companies of the equites which were formed to carry these through were much in evidence during the period. The publicani had as yet not entered the lucrative field of provincial tax-collecting. They were apparently excluded from tithe-gathering in Sicily by the Lex Hieronica, and the contributions of Spain were gathered by the quaestors of the provincial governors. The mines of Spain, the harbour-dues, the river-dues and the public lands were farmed by these associations. Since returns from all of them were generally well-known amounts, the contracts were readily estimated and the profits not large. The investments required for public works, however, were at times heavy, for this was an era of much building. To what extent the companies shared in the extensive road construction in Cisalpine Gaul is not known. Most of those roads bear consular names, and it is not unlikely that the army engineers laid out the greater number, employing local and military labour for their construction. At Rome, however, many streets were laid out and paved for the first time, three basilicas were built, a harbour, several temples, and a bridge, and most of these works were let out by the censors to the contractors. At times we also hear of public works let out by the censors for various colonies, and it was in the second century that the first efforts were made to drain the Pontine marshes.
These constructions were carefully supervised and the work skilfully executed, to judge from the pavements and foundations still visible. We can hardly assume that great fortunes were accumulated by the contractors who financed them. That the knights who took the contracts at this time did not have much capital at their disposal is apparent not only from the fact that the largest undertaking, the construction of the Marcian aqueduct, which cost the state 180,000,000 sesterces, was undertaken as public work by the praetor Marcius, but also by the statement of Polybius, that the contractors needed the aid of many partners, shareholders and guarantors for the work which they financed. However, this period of building was one in which the knights could perfect a large organization, accustom the people to invest in shares, create a class-consciousness among themselves and a respect for their accomplishments, as the work of useful and faithful civil servants. It is apparent that they had succeeded in all this before the period was over, so that the Gracchi were ready to employ the equites as a distinct group worthy of official recognition and of great trust in the extensive undertakings which they proposed to carry out. It was when they received political power, and the opportunity to exploit provinces far distant from the watchful eye of Roman censors and tribunes that the Roman knights developed the ugly traits that made the epithet ‘publicanus’ a byword. In general we may conclude that public contracts during this period provided a method for disbursing through the middle and lower classes at Rome much of the wealth that reached the treasury after lucrative wars, and that through these an easier standard of living came to prevail at Rome.
Before the Gracchi the knights had not yet formed a separate social caste of peculiar distinction. That some were wealthy and kept elaborate households in imitation of the senators is probable. They provided well-dowered daughters now and then to save noble families from financial ruin, and after a few such connections had been formed with the influential, a member of an equestrian family occasionally succeeded in gaining enough support to dare to be a candidate for aristocratic office. But during the Republic the road to social distinction was always difficult for the financial group. The Gracchi gave them some political recognition and prestige, but also created a hostility toward them which cost them dearly whenever—as under Sulla—the nobility was secure in the saddle. Rarely has a capitalist class as such suffered the disasters that it did at Rome.
The lower strata of Rome’s society were also undergoing very great changes in the second century. We know how the rise of the slave-worked plantation in the North American continent drove free labour to the mountains and coast towns, creating the pitiful and futile ‘poor whites,’ how the normal towns of the agrarian regions dwindled into listless market-places, and how free industry surrendered to the slave work of the plantation. Conditions must have been similar in Italy all the way from the Arno to the Volturnus, even though we have no description of the process. From the fourth and third centuries, we still have excellent silver and bronze work from Praeneste, good architectural terracotta work and some pleasing artistry in bronze from several Etruscan towns. These few objects are all that have come down to us, since textiles and furniture would naturally disappear. But if these articles are significant of the condition of industry in the towns of the fourth and third centuries, we may conclude from their absence in the second century and thereafter that, where the slave-plantation prospered, free and healthy industry gave way. Campanian towns benefited somewhat, and foreign importation must have profited too. For the cheaper work, household drudges would satisfy all needs. But as for the artisans and peasants who did not emigrate they must have drifted into the towns to become ‘poor white trash.’ The social evolution of the second century accounts for the first gatherings of that discontented urban rabble, which consisted of free citizens deprived of their usual occupations and of emancipated slaves that wanted none.
Until after the Hannibalic War the city of Rome looked exceedingly tawdry. For three centuries few public or sacred structures of any distinction had been erected. The magnificent Tuscan temples built by the Etruscan princes and by the Romans during the first few years of the Republic had been patched up with new stucco from time to time, but no effort had been made to restore or enlarge them. The Capitoline temple was still a structure of stuccoed tufa with Tuscan columns and timbered architraves decorated with figured terracotta revetments. The old temples of Saturn and of Castor in the Forum, of Ceres and of Diana on the Aventine and of Apollo in the Campus could hardly be distinguished from the decaying fifth- and sixth-century temples of Caere and Falerii. Nothing reveals so completely what vicissitudes the Roman State had passed through in the fifth and fourth centuries as do the remains of these old buildings. Incidentally they provide excellent evidence that the traditional history of early Rome is not wholly unsound. Rome’s contact with the Sicilians in the First Punic War had created a desire for a new type of architecture, and the custom had arisen among generals of promising a part of the booty for the building of some temple in case of victory, but all of these buildings had been smaller than those of the sixth and fifth centuries.
The new temples of the second century were not large and costly, and some of them were still being erected in the Tuscan style which held an unusually tenacious place in the affections of conservative Romans. But we also have evidence of a new Hellenistic type of architecture that we can best judge from such buildings as the Apollo temple and the basilica at Pompeii, both of which belong to the ‘tufa’ period. The Magna Mater temple of the Palatine at Rome, dedicated in 191 bc, was a building of some dignity. The walls were of Etruscan tufa, stuccoed. If we may judge from fragments included in the rebuilt podium, it had architraves, columns and capitals of the best Alban tufa, neatly stuccoed in pleasing designs, as were the Pompeian buildings of the same period. At Rome, as in Campania, the art of designing for architectural decoration in the glistening gypsum stucco was quickly developed and this type of decoration gave a far more pleasing effect than the crude marble work of the period that followed. Three basilicas also arose in the Forum in quick succession, presumably in the same manner—though Cato in his fondness for terracotta adornment may have demanded the Tuscan style for his basilica. This Porcian basilica (184), a small enough building near the senate-house, was apparently the first of its kind at Rome. The censors, Aemilius and Fulvius, raised a larger one behind the ‘new shops’ in 179, and of this we have a few foundations still in view; and presently Sempronius matched this with a third basilica behind the ‘old shops’ in 170. None of these, however, had the space or dimensions of the basilica erected a little later in Pompeii. Covered walks, porticoes and stoas in the Greek manner were also erected here and there at Rome. A series of three of these, apparently contiguous, provided a shaded walk for considerably over half a mile, from the emporium to Apollo’s temple in the Campus (179 bc), and Cn. Octavius constructed in the Campus a double stoa decorated with bronze capitals from Macedonia which was used for the housing of captured objects of art (168 BC).
Among the temples that were built, we hear of one to Vediovis and one to Faunus on the island of the Tiber (194); in the vegetable market Juno Sospita was given a temple (194), of which we may still see the foundations, and Pietas had one near by (181). Apollo’s temple in the Campus was rebuilt, apparently in the tufastucco style, and near that a new one was erected to Hercules Musarum (187). The most distinguished temples were those of Juppiter Stator and Juno Regina erected about 147 in the Campus by the Greek architect, Hermodorus, for Metellus, the conqueror of Andriscus. They were constructed of Greek marble, enclosed by a pleasing portico, and their areas were adorned with the splendid equestrian statues of the heroes that fell at the battle of Granicus, made by Lysippus at Alexander’s orders. Such was the booty that conquerors like Metellus were now bringing to Rome. But for over sixty years these were the only marble structures seen at the capital.
All this building activity led to the discovery of new materials which in time revolutionized building methods at Rome. At first several strong grades of volcanic tufa were found—on the banks of the Anio, on Monte Verde and at Gabii—that would support taller buildings and wider intercolumniations. Then, about the middle of the century, some enterprising builder discovered the well-hidden vein of excellent limestone which is now called travertine, the quality of which was later abundantly proved by the Colosseum and St Peter’s. Finally, before the Gracchan period, the architects found that a very durable cement could be made at little expense by mixing lime with the volcanic ash which lay in great abundance everywhere outside the city walls. This cement was soon used for the construction of heavy concrete foundations and massive walls. Its possibilities were not fully realized at once, but it was the material which during the Empire made possible the construction of the magnificent domes so characteristic of Roman architecture. It is, in fact, to the experiments of architects of the second century that later Rome seems to owe its most important structural materials.
During his censorship Cato modernized and extended the drainage system of the city at a cost of 20,000,000 sesterces (184 BC), and in 179 the first stone piers were laid for a bridge over the Tiber. The architect did not then have the courage to finish the arches of this bridge, and it was not till 142, when builders had gained experience from raising the great Marcian aqueduct (144), that it was completed. During this period the censors also began systematically to pave the streets of the city with stone instead of with river gravel that had been spread over them before. For this they found an excellent material in the hard lava that extended from the Alban hills to within two miles of the city; but in order to pave the steep streets of the Capitoline and Palatine they brought from the neighbourhood of Falerii, nearly forty miles away, a rougher and more practical variety of lava. These censors may have known little about the beauties of refined architecture, but they insisted on good materials and honest work. By the middle of the century the streets and public buildings had at least attained to the respectability of those of the Campanian towns.
Of domestic architecture and its decoration we know but little from the remains at Rome. As we have noticed, Pompeii flourished remarkably during this second century. Several palatial houses were built at that time over the foundations of complexes of small houses, which proves a rapid increase of wealth. Probably the same process was going on at Rome at about the same time. It would be daring to assume that such palaces as the ‘house of Pansa’ or the ‘house of the Faun’ could be matched at Rome before Cato’s death, but the type and style of some of the houses there must have been approximately the same. Certainly there must have been many houses at Rome which resembled the Pompeian house of the ‘Labyrinth’, the ‘Centaur’, the ‘Silver Wedding’, of ‘Ariadne’, of Sallustius and of Popidius, to mention but a few of the well-known houses of the ‘tufa’ period. Most of these had the large open central atrium with vestibule, a series of bedrooms at the sides, a tablinum in the rear corner, and several had a peristyle with other rooms about it or at least a garden behind the atrium.
The rooms were decorated with stucco which was moulded in blocks and tinted in various colours to represent a veneer of precious marbles. The roof-beams of the atrium were usually borne by lofty stuccoed columns of the Corinthian or Ionic orders. In the ‘house of the Silver Wedding’ the tetrastyle atrium measuring more than forty feet square gives a senseof spaciousness and dignity thatwould well befit a Roman senator. The furniture that has been found in these houses is chiefly of a later period, but it represents fairly well the kind of ware that the wealthier Romans were bringing back from the sale of plunder in the East during the second century bc. We cannot suppose that any one at Rome then possessed such floor mosaics as have been found in the ‘house of the Faun’, for these betray workmanship of the most skilled Alexandrian school, and Romans were not yet importing such decorations to any extent. To be sure, Lucilius’ phrases reveal a knowledge of a finer mosaic than the crude black-and-white work that has survived for us from the Republic, and some examples there doubtless were at Rome; but the best technique was apparently allowed to die before the Romans began to demand this kind of pavement in large quantities. In general, we have a right to draw upon the ‘tufa’ architecture of Pompeii in trying to restore the second-century dwellings of Rome, but we dare not assume that many Romans had acquired a taste for decorative refinements such as are found in the best of the old houses of Pompeii.